Saturday, February 28, 2009
We started packing up the truck with the lift to move furniture last night. I got home at 10:30 last night, and didn't sleep all that wonderfully. I got up this morning, went over and packed up all of my car, Dad's truck and the rest of a trailer.
The lady they were buying the house from had some problems with her movers this morning, so we didn't get to start moving stuff into the house until after 3:00 today. But, we had a big truck, Dad's back seat and bed of his truck, a trailer, my car and Mom's car packed and ready to go by then.
Jenny helped us for as long as she could once we finally got over there. But between last night and this morning, by the time we really got going, I was tired. I thought one of the pieces of the sectional was going to kill me because we could not get it into the house. The refrigerator wasn't a load of fun either. A lot of work for the four of us.
Now, it hurts to move the mouse. I hope I can haul my rear out of this chair and into the shower.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Today was my attitude adjustment day (have I ever mentioned how I love attitude adjustment days?). It was quite the positive experience, and I'd like to give referrals to some people that need their attitude royally adjusted in more ways than one.
My parents have their house back to themselves for the last day and a half before they move. Mom cannot wait to be able to get into the house, but I just wish the last few days in their house could have been more peaceful and joyous than they have been.
Now, it's time for me to become deep and reflective.
There comes a point and time in life, when an adult needs to grow up and become a responsible adult with respect for those around them.
There comes a point and time when an adult needs to realized that the decisions that he/she makes create a ripple effect, and sometimes even a tidal wave that can virtually drown those in the path.
There comes a point and time when you realize that there are no do overs, and you really wish you could because you've not only broken, but smashed things up so badly that all the super glue and duct tape in the world won't completely fix it.
There comes a point and time when the people around you have finally decided to throw up a roadblock because they've let you run over them enough, and decide to finally take a stand.
There comes a point and time in life, when even though your children are young, they realize what is going on around them and see what's wrong, even if you don't.
There comes a point and time in life that you reap what you sow.There is a certain someone that I hope figures this out really soon. I'm going to put some heavy duty praying into it because that's the only thing that is going to do any good. God is really doing some work in my life right now, and I hope that He uses me to make a difference in this situation.
Just a warning to all of you... I'm helping with the move this weekend, so there may not be much blogging going on. I'll keep you posted.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
OK readers, before I continue on, you have to keep in mind that I started out as a communication (graphic) design major and had a whole semester of typography. A ligature is a typography term used to describe when two letters should basically be merged together for visual appeal. Typesetters have functionality in their computer programs to fix this, but I don't think that you can do it in your everyday version of Microsoft Word. Any word, for example, that has an fi or fl will actually connect those letters together so that their is not a dot above the i.
Take a quick look at Wikipedia to see what I mean. I promise that you have seen this before as you were reading, but you just didn't notice. Now you will notice for the next four days.
However anal-retentive I might be, I normally am not this bad about noticing things like that, but I just so happened to catch them yesterday. I don't know why, it was just one of those days, I guess...
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
2009 conference features first-ever meeting of the minds
Dallas/ Ft. Worth, TX—We live in a broken world. The evidence is everywhere—broken marriages, broken families, broken hearts, broken people. In response, more and more people in the Christian community are exploring biblical counseling. Yet this growing interest brings new questions and fresh discussions about what biblical counseling really looks like. The landscape of biblical counseling is changing, thanks in part to the work of organizations like the Association of Biblical Counselors (ABC). For anyone interested in these exciting new developments, ABC is pleased to announce the 2009 conference to be held May 14-16 in Fort Worth, Texas. The theme of this year’s event is “A Quest for More,” based on the book by keynote speaker Paul Tripp, one of the most dynamic speakers in biblical counseling today.
“I am overwhelmed with excitement over this year’s conference for several reasons,” says ABC President Jeremy Lelek. “On opening night, we are going to have four of the top scholars from various counseling ‘camps,’ including the American Association of Christian Counselors, Christian Counseling Educational Foundation, and the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors, who will discuss emerging trends in biblical counseling as well as distinctions between the various schools of thought. This is a truly groundbreaking event!” Residents of Dallas/Ft. Worth who are not attending the conference may purchase tickets to this exciting Thursday night-only event. The weekend will also include a tribute to special guest Elisabeth Elliot for her pioneering work in South America and across the world.
Lelek emphasizes that this event is not just for licensed counselors. These sessions are for counselors, pastors, and laity. Hurting people and those struggling to overcome certain issues in their lives are encouraged to attend. The conference features over twenty-five elective sessions with topics ranging from marriage and sexual addiction to spiritual warfare and crisis intervention. A sampling of titles includes:
• Living a Pure Life in a Sexualized Culture: Overcoming Lust, Understanding Your Enemy, and Living a Life of Repentance
• Soul Care: Starting a Biblical Counseling Ministry in Your Local Church
• Learning to Think Like a Christian
• The God Empowered Wife (for women only)
• Biblical Counseling with Adult Victims of Childhood Trauma
• When Suffering People Need to Know “Why?”
In addition, conference attendees will encounter opportunities to discover reliable referral services, network with like-minded believers, receive nationally approved Continuing Education Units, and be encouraged in their own lives and counseling ministries.
With new chapters opening around the country, ABC’s influence in the Christian counseling community continues to grow. Recently, the organization, together with its sister ministry, Metroplex Counseling, has acquired new office space which will allow them to build a state of the art, high quality biblical counseling center right in the heart of Dallas/Ft.Worth.
“Through the gracious efforts of John Meador, senior pastor of First Baptist Euless, the Lord has provided us with an amazing facility, capable of housing a team of counselors, where we will be able to provide competent and biblical care for hurting souls in the Metroplex area,” Lelek says. “We’re going to kick off our official opening with a pastors and ministry luncheon (at FBC Euless) featuring the dynamic speaker and lead pastor of The Village, Matt Chandler.”
ABC is also excited to announce the publication of a new biblical counseling training curriculum, Equipped to Counsel, written by Dr. John Henderson of Denton Bible Church. These materials will provide pastors, counselors, and laity with a wonderful foundation on which to build their ministries of soul care. Positive reviews of the curriculum are already rolling in from leaders like Matt Chandler and Mars Hill Church’s Mark Driscoll who described the materials as “…a very useful, gospel-centered, Bible-saturated, and Jesus-exalting help to the care of our people at Mars Hill Church.”
With an ever-multiplying membership, a groundbreaking conference, a brand new counseling facility, and curriculum endorsed by some of America’s leading pastors, ABC is making great strides toward accomplishing their mission of encouraging, equipping, and empowering all believers everywhere to live and counsel the Word. For more information about the conference and the many training opportunities offered through ABC, visit http://www.christiancounseling.com/.
When Faith Fails to Deliver
Discovering the cause of Christian disillusionment
For both church insiders and those who are only now beginning a conscious pursuit of Christ, the journey of faith is sometimes marked by moments of disillusionment and anger. This comes as a surprise to many of us who have either been taught or have sought a very different version of faith—one that brings the happy ending, the resolution of conflict, the warm fuzzies.
According to author Jason T. Berggren, the emotional valleys of faith are often completely unrelated to anything God has or has not done; instead, they are a direct result of our own wrong expectations. In 10 Things I Hate About Christianity: Working Through the Frustrations of Faith, Berggren explores many of the wrong expectations that have caused absolute frustration in his life and his own journey of faith and shares some good news: this sense of overwhelming dissatisfaction can actually serve as a catalyst for personal growth.
Berggren first responded to the gospel as a wounded teenager, an outsider within his own family who was yearning for a place to belong. “Faith in Jesus was the best decision I’ve ever made. It was also the most difficult,” he states. “It wasn’t long before I discovered I had to work at keeping this hope. Life was hard and messy; it had a way of wearing me down and stealing my focus and optimism. It took time, but I learned to come to terms with the realization that faith in Jesus didn’t mean all my problems would go away or be fixed. Unfortunately, many who believe never reach this understanding.”
With complete—and sometimes eyebrow-raising—honesty, 10 Things I Hate About Christianity walks readers through the common, damaging misconceptions Christians hold concerning everything from faith and prayer to the brutality of hell and the role of church in the life of a follower of Christ. The book flows from Berggren’s twenty-year experience as a follower of Christ and his time as a pastor, church planter, and founder of Strongarm, one of the most influential bands in the history of Christian hardcore music. 10 Things I Hate About Christianity records the raw process of one man’s faith, set against the real-life backdrop of his roles as former rocker, husband, father of three, and small business owner. Readers will examine the complicated aspects of understanding:
· The Bible
· Answers (to difficult questions)
“I’m convinced that many, many people are moved by the teachings of Jesus. They want to believe. They want to follow. They just got disconnected on some level, and they can’t work through it,” Berggren says. “10 Things I Hate About Christianity shares, in the open, the things we all think behind closed doors. We all reach certain impasses in our lives. This book is meant to be an encouragement and to help people get around the common roadblocks of faith.” In his conversational, casual style, Berggren encourages readers to seek resolutions to the big questions of life that can ultimately lead to faith in Jesus: Why are we all here? What’s it all about? Is there more to this?
10 Things I Hate About Christianity: Working Through the Frustrations of Faith by Jason T. Berggren
X-Media/March 2009/ISBN: 9780981944302/Paperback/$14.99
Monday, February 23, 2009
How God’s love is combating terrorism and militant Islam
Every night on the evening news, we see images from the Middle East of war, terrorism, bold threats, and a hatred that has been smoldering for centuries. The lead news story of the day often emanates from this volatile region—and rightfully so, because of its instability. The Middle East is the place where history, religion, and politics collide head-on. The future of the region appears hopeless…until you discover that there is more to the story.
“Jesus is reaching out to the people of the Middle East in a powerful way, and the people are responding in record numbers. Millions have given their lives to Jesus Christ in the last ten years. That’s right—millions!” author and Middle East expert Tom Doyle points out. “This story is more important than the latest suicide bombing or the latest threat of war. And Christians need to hear it.”
In his new book, Breakthrough, author Tom Doyle gives Christians a glimpse of what is really going on in the Middle East—and this is an angle that you won’t get from the mainstream media. For the last seven years, Doyle has served as the Middle East director for e3 Partners, a dynamic global church planting ministry. Breakthrough tells the stories of vibrant churches who are growing—even thriving—in the midst of constant danger and unimaginable persecution.
Breakthrough includes the testimonies of both Jews and Muslims who have come to faith in Christ, people who are constantly watched and often persecuted, who understand that this day might be their last. Yet they often state, “We pray for believers in the West every day.” Among the many testimonies featured in the book are the conversion stories of former terrorists, Muslim missionaries to America, a Palestinian guard led to Christ by an Israeli believer, and even a Muslim Imam, all of whom have become committed Christian leaders.
With media attention increasingly focused on the global threat of militant Islam, it’s easy to assume that the majority of the Muslim world supports jihad. Not so, says Doyle. “In extensive interviews throughout the Middle East, we continually hear that over half of Muslims worldwide are not practicing their faith whatsoever. I have learned that even the vast majority of practicing Muslims are peaceful and not into jihad,” he says. “From Egypt to Iran, the Muslims we talk to are sick of the Islamic fundamentalism that isolates them from the world and makes them all out to be bloodthirsty killers. We must reach out and love these people with the love of Jesus.”
Breakthrough takes readers to the streets of Gaza, a secret pre-dawn gathering of believers in Iran, and an underground Bible college for former Muslims offering a course entitled “What to Do When You Are Arrested for Your Faith.” The book includes a brief history of Islam and the resurgence of fundamental Islam and helpful strategies for Christians who want to reach out to the Muslims in their lives. An entire chapter is devoted to the specific prayer needs of the Middle East.
“The most dangerous places to serve Christ are usually the places where he is moving the most,” Doyle states. “There is a new day in the Middle East. Muslims are coming to Jesus, and the church is blessed to have them.”
Breakthrough by Tom Doyle
Authentic – February 2009
ISBN 978-1-934068-63-2/207 pages/softcover/$17.99
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Boring Saturday, grocery store, got my oil changed, refused the extra things that "needed" to be done to my car, washed my car (not well), packed boxes for my mom. That's about it.
Kind of have a funny story, but it will have to wait.
Friday, February 20, 2009
The "great invasion" has not done a lot for my mom's sanity, ability to sleep, stress level or patience. My dad even got a bit peeved at my brother last night, my mother informs me. I took her out to lunch today to talk. And since I paid, my mom considered it a real treat. I replied back, "well, I am your good child." I figured she needed a treat.
It's a good thing my parents live at the dead end of the street. Mom's car is always in the driveway, then three cars can fit wide from one side of the street to the other. There's the trailer with stuff stored in it for the move, my dad's truck, Brian's farm/work (whatever he actually does these days) truck, Brian's other truck and Julie's car. When I drove up tonight and pulled in behind my mom in the driveway, the neighbor across the street says, "you have quite a crew over there, don't you."
My reply was, "well, I'm the only person that doesn't live here."
Neighbor: "How does it feel to be the only independent person in your family?"
Me: "At least my house is quiet. Everyone wants to come to my house to visit."
I worked late, so I didn't get over there until 6. Mom was in the kitchen, and the rest of the adults were sitting around the living room evidently waiting for her to cook something. Mom was borderline livid. We weren't really hungry, but we cooked for the rest of them.
At one point, Brian took Layton out of his activity center thing, put him in his walker and pushed him into the kitchen. I don't really know why he did that other than, well I don't know. Julie wasn't feeling good, so she went back to a bedroom.
I fixed "chicken macaroni" - sort of like chicken spaghetti, but with macaroni. So, it's elbow macaroni noodles, cut up cooked chicken chunks, a can of the really creamy cream of chicken soup, a little bit of onion, and cheese on top. This time I put a little bit of Velveeta in with it and baked it.
It comes out of the oven, my brother says, "you didn't put much cheese in it."
"Well, there is some in it, and that's all the grated cheese that was left on top. Besides, the cream of chicken soup that is the same color as the noodles is the point anyway." (The cheese that had melted somewhat from being left out Wednesday night--when he didn't put it back in the fridge since several of us ate before church and he came in right before we left--and then was stuck together when I got it out tonight.)
What I really wanted to say is, "you sound like one of your kids - shut up!"
I would just like to say that Madison liked it. Maybe that was the real grand achievement of the day all things considered. (Paige and Peyton weren't there to voice opinions.)
It seems as if Brian is trying to scheme to get my parents out of their house. "When do you close on your new house and when do you get to move in?"
Dad: "Wednesday, but I don't know when we get to move in."
I don't know if Brian has talked to the church yet about renting my parents' current house once they get to move out or not, but it sounds like he's trying to get them out. He just better watch his behavior because Mom is ready to pull a "who do you think you are talking to?" along with a "you are living in my house" on him. (I don't really remember him getting that as a teen - I remember hearing it myself though.)
Ah... the satisfaction of being the good child right now. No matter how old you get, sibling rivalry never dies!
Thursday, February 19, 2009
I love Survivor and have watched it since sometime in the second season (can you say Colby?), and then watch what I missed before that on some out there cable channel that showed repeats. But, one thing's for sure. You wouldn't catch me out running around in my underwear, sleeping with the rats, living in muck and camping out for 39 days. Not to mention, I'd get on everyone's nerves on day 1 and my tribe would throw the challenge to vote me off at the first tribal council.
I'm an on again off again watcher of The Amazing Race. I'd love to take a trip all over the world on someone else's dime, but I'd be wanting to take pictures and do the tourist thing. Plus, it never fails, there's a challenge where you have to bungee jump off a building or do something extreme that I wouldn't or couldn't do if my life depended on it. I'm afraid not on that one too.
Then there's Dancing with the Stars. Well, I can neither dance nor am I a star. I don't think I can dance, so that rules out So You Think You Can Dance and Super Stars of Dance (which I still think was the biggest bust ever).
#1 I'm too old now, #2 I can't sing and #3 even if I were not too old, I would not choose not embarrass myself like a number of people do, so American Idol is out. As is Nashville Star and You Can Duet (did anyone else catch that one?). I'd just strike out on Don't Forget the Lyrics because I don't know enough in a number of genres.
I don't even have a weird talent, so out goes America's Got Talent. (Even though I had seen Terry Fator in "the Can" years before he became big with Winston the Turtle.)
I don't see me getting chosen to be the next Bachelorette and I am not floosy enough--nor do I want to make out with some guy in a hot tub whose made out with 24 other girls in the past 48 hours--so out goes the Batchelor.
With no husband on the horizon, Bridezilla, Say Yes to the Dress and Rich Bride, Poor Bride are all out. And goodness knows I'm way behind and have no desire to have 17 Kids and Counting or be a part of anyone Plus 8.
I may be short, but I'm not short enough to be on Little People, Big World. I don't think I dress quite bad enough to be nominated for What Not to Wear, but I hope I didn't just give anyone any ideas.
Since I do want to be a homeowner someday, I guess I'll have to hold out for Property Virgins. Goodness knows I could stand to be on The Biggest Loser, but Jillian would beat me to a pulp because I'd be a huge crying wimp. She would want to get to the root of my problems...
So, anyone else have a show that I won't become a superstar on?
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Tonight marks night 7 of "The Great Invasion" over at my parents house. I haven't really, truly had a chance to talk to my mom since Saturday, and for most of the time I was with her that day, my grandmother was around. Not exactly the opportune time to talk.
I had something on my mind that I wanted to talk to her about, and we usually get a chance when we ride to church together on Wednesday nights, but all three girls were in tow tonight. I tried talking to her on the phone one night, but Dad answered the phone and was kind of keeping guard or something.
Until 8 people started living there, I never realized how small my parents' house was. Of course, it probably seems even smaller to the 8 of them than it does to me. Without all of their toys around, the two younger girls run around like crazy, bumping into Layton's activity seat things (what are those things called?) or each other. We sit down to eat and it's the constant, "I don't like this" or "I don't want that."
I think my mom wouldn't mind having a conversation with me too, but alas, who can speak a sentence without an audience or an interruption. When I left, I said, "we should do lunch sometime."
The problem is, there just isn't a routine yet. Living at Grandma and Pop's just isn't normal. My dad seems to be dealing well, my mom, she's struggling a bit.
They are going to get to close and move on their new house sooner than originally expected. Brian told Dad he wants to rent the current house from the church when Mom and Dad move out. Maybe that will work out for them. Then I can decorate the new house.
Mom introduced me as the decorator to the realtor and then again to the woman that is selling the house. Then when I say something about decorating, she laughs and says, "oh really?" "Uh, Mom, if you keep telling everyone I am the decorator, are you not going to let me do some decorating?"
Paige came over for a while to be able to watch American Idol in peace and get a bubble bath. Then Dad picked her back up and took her back home. She told me it was her night to sleep on the couch. It must be a rotation over there.
I told Paige that she could bring the Wii and Karaoke machine over to my house Saturday night. There really isn't room over at the mad house, and besides, I want to play the Wii!
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Authentic (February 3, 2009)
Randal Rauser is associate professor of historical theology at Taylor Seminary, Edmonton, Canada and was granted Taylor’s first annual teaching award for Outstanding Service to Students in 2005. Dr. Rauser’s career as both professor and author has been shaped by his passion for developing a biblically sound apologetic theology that meets the challenges of secular western culture. He is a popular speaker and gifted communicator who seeks to bring the truth of Scripture to bear on the real-life issues of today.
Rauser received his master’s degree in Christian studies at Regent College, later earning a PhD at King’s College London, where he focused on studying the doctrine of the Trinity. Dr. Rauser is the coauthor (with Daniel Hill) of Christian Philosophy A-Z (Edinburgh University Press, 2006) and author of Faith Lacking Understanding (Paternoster) and Theology in Search of Foundations (Oxford University Press, Forthcoming). He has also authored several articles which have appeared in International Journal of Systematic Theology, Heythrop Journal, and Christian Scholars Review. In keeping with his interest in the crossroads of theology and popular culture, Dr. Rauser’s newest book, Finding God in The Shack, explores the theology set forth in The Shack.
Dr. Rauser’s approach to controversial novels like The Shack and The Da Vinci Code distinguishes him from many other evangelical thinkers. “Sometimes we evangelicals possess a certain flatness; we can’t see the beauty of a story. In my opinion, a book like The Shack is not an end in itself. It is part of a conversation,” Dr. Rauser muses. “When a book becomes a catalyst for us to engage people in conversations about who God is instead of the latest update on ‘Brangelina’ or the status of our 401(k)s, we should not miss that opportunity simply because we’re afraid we might make a theological mistake. After all, what work or discourse on theology gets everything right?”
Rauser met his wife, Jasper, a native of Korea, while she was studying English in Vancouver. They have been married since 1999 and have a six-year-old daughter named Jamie and a Lhasa Apso named Sonny. The Rausers currently attend Greenfield Baptist Church in Edmonton, where Dr. Rauser teaches Sunday school and has presented a seminar on the theology of The Shack.
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Authentic (February 3, 2009)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
As a theologian, I have one big reason to be especially fond of The Shack. To appreciate the source of my gratitude, I need to say a few words about academic theology over the last forty years. (Trust me, this will not be as painful as it sounds!) Our story begins back in the year 1967 when Catholic theologian
Karl Rahner published a little book called The Trinity. There, Rahner observed, “Despite their orthodox confession of the Trinity, Christians are, in their practical life, almost mere ‘monotheists.’ We must be willing to admit that, should the doctrine of the Trinity have to be dropped as false, the major part of religious literature could well remain virtually unchanged.”1
By calling Christians “almost mere monotheists” Rahner meant that their beliefs about God do not differ significantly from other forms of monotheism like Judaism and Islam. But how can this be if, as Christians claim, the very foundation of their belief in God is found in the doctrine of the Trinity? Rahner’s striking claim really shook up theologians as they pondered how it could be that the doctrine which is supposed to be at the heart of our faith was actually somewhere out on the periphery.
Does the Trinity Matter?
Rather than simply take Rahner’s word for it, I would suggest that we test his thesis by way of a little thought experiment. Imagine that the pastor of a typical Baptist church became convinced that the Trinity was false. Instead of believing that God is three persons, he came to believe that God is one person who plays three roles: sometimes he acts as the Father, other times he acts as the Son, and yet other times as the Holy Spirit. This view is called modalism, and it has been considered a heresy by the Christian church since the third century.
Now if the doctrine of the Trinity really is important, we would expect that the pastor’s rejection of it in favor of modalism would send shockwaves throughout the church. But is this really what would happen? I doubt it! On the contrary, I suspect that as long as he continued to mention the Father, Son and Spirit, it wouldn’t matter if he believed they were all the same person. The church would continue on as it always had with its weekly services, Christmas pageants, potlucks, and various ministries. In contrast to this, if our Baptist pastor baptized an infant on Sunday, I bet you would have a church split by Monday! But surely this is strange: why would a peripheral question concerning the practice of baptism be in practice more important for the church’s identity than the supposedly essential doctrine of the Trinity?
Theologians knew that Rahner was right. Although we claim to be trinitarian Christians, this doctrine does not make a difference to the life of the church. But then the theologians faced the challenge of making the Trinity relevant again. They took up this challenge by doing what theologians do best: they wrote books. Lots of books. Lots and lots of books. Some were about the biblical basis of the Trinity. Others talked about the theological or philosophical dimensions of the Trinity. Still others discussed the historical development of the Trinity. And still others talked about the practical and pastoral implications of the Trinity.2
Many of these books were well worth reading. Indeed, some were good enough to qualify as modern classics. And yet, most were only ever read by other theologians which meant that had virtually no impact on the neighborhood church. As a result, we remain stalled in the same place where we were forty years ago: few pastors know how to preach the Trinity, fewer church goers know how to pray the Trinity, and almost no one knows what it would mean to live the Trinity.
At this point you might be wondering whether the doctrine of the Trinity ever made a difference to the church. The answer is yes, it did: the burning torch of Christian truth has burned much brighter in the past. To take one example, if we could hop in a time machine and travel back to the fourth century Roman Empire, we would have encountered a society that debated theology with the same vigor that Canadians today debate hockey. At that time, big questions were at stake as Christians debated a heretical view called Arianism which said that Jesus was God’s greatest creation.
The fierce public debate between orthodox Christianity and Arianism so consumed the general public that average people would jump into theological debates at the slightest provocation. Strangers in the streets would get into fierce debates over various scriptural passages: for instance, how should we understand the claim that Jesus is God’s “only begotten son” (John 3:16)? Did the text mean, as the Arians claimed, that Jesus was God’s first creation? Or, as the orthodox Christians argued, was Jesus eternally begotten by and equal to God the Father? People of the time were passionate about these questions, for they recognized that the heart of Christianity was at stake.
We have a snapshot of the debate from Gregory of Nyssa, a bishop of the time. He wrote: “If in this city you ask anyone for change, he will discuss with you whether the Son is begotten or unbegotten. If you ask about the quality of bread, you will receive the answer that ‘the Father is greater, the Son is less.’ If you suggest that a bath is desirable, you will be told that ‘there was nothing before the Son was created.’ ”3 In other words, theology was to be found everywhere. It found its way into every conversation, every situation. So prevalent was theological discussion that, as Gregory’s weary tone suggests, even the bishops were getting worn out by the debate!
If Christians in the past could wear out their bishops with their theological bravado, why is it that today many Christians think theology is about as exciting as watching paint dry or attending a life insurance seminar? Or to turn the question around, how can we reignite that lost passion? And how can we get average Christians excited about the doctrine of the Trinity, so that it again returns to coffee shop conversations, morning devotions, and the heart of Christian worship?
Rediscovering the Trinity in The Shack
While the answer to our question is surely complex, recently theology has been given a tremendous boost by, of all things, a novel. Not just any novel mind you, for William Paul Young’s The Shack tells a most unlikely story! Not content simply to
reintroduce the Trinity as a doctrine of mere peripheral interest,
the book weaves the triune God into an engaging narrative. Along the way, it goes to the heart of the most horrifying case of evil and then makes the truly bold claim that God as triune is crucial to the process by which healing is coming to this world.
First, let’s say a word about the story itself. The Shack opens with the narrator “Willie” reporting that he has recorded everything as his close friend Mack had instructed him. (Since the name Willie is an obvious reference to author William Young, some readers have assumed that the book is claiming to be a factual account. But Young has made it clear that the book is fictional, albeit with a significant portion of autobiography thrown in.) We then learn that a few years prior to Willie’s writing Mack took three of his children camping. At the end of a wonderful weekend, his son was in a canoeing accident, and in the melee that ensued, his youngest daughter Missy disappeared. Within hours it became clear that she had been abducted by a serial killer known as the Little Lady-Killer. In a matter of hours, the FBI investigation converged on a remote shack where Missy’s bloody dress was discovered, though her body was never found.
Fast-forward three-and-a-half years and Mack continues to struggle with “the Great Sadness.” Then one day he receives an invitation in his mailbox to meet Papa (his wife’s name for God) at the shack. Perplexed and intrigued, Mack secretly travels to the shack on a Friday evening and is met by an African-American woman named Papa, an Asian woman named Sarayu, and a Jewish man named Jesus: all told, a rather unconventional Trinity! Over the next two days Mack communes with the three as he comes to terms with the Great Sadness and embarks on the road to healing and reconciliation.
The book climaxes on Sunday morning when Papa (now in male form) takes Mack on a journey to the place where the killer buried Missy. Together they return her body to the shack for a proper burial, complete with an unforgettable memorial ceremony. After Mack shares a special communion service with Papa, Jesus, and Sarayu, he falls asleep, only to wake up in the dark, cold cabin. Mack then travels back down the mountain where he gets into a serious car accident. As he slowly recovers in the hospital the memories of the weekend gradually return, prompting the question of whether it was just a dream.
Yet when he has recovered, Mack confirms the truth of the weekend by taking Nan and the police to the grave where the Little Lady-Killer had buried Missy. (Apparently Mack’s experience of relocating and burying Missy’s body did not really occur.) This discovery ultimately provides forensic evidence which leads to the Little Lady-Killer’s arrest and trial. The book ends with Mack transformed and transforming: having been reconciled with his children, wife, and abusive father, he now seeks to extend forgiveness to Missy’s killer.
In the short time since its publication, The Shack has ignited the church’s interest in the doctrine of the Trinity more than the dozens of theology books that have been published by academic theologians over the last forty years. It is wonderful (and a bit humbling) for the theologian to witness a doctrine that has long been locked in the seminary classroom now emerging as a topic of lively conversations at the local coffee shop, and all because of a novel! But while those conversations have not typically lacked for enthusiasm and conviction, many of them would benefit from some deeper background as to the theological issues at stake. It is to this end that the present book is aimed.
Conversations on The Shack: An Overview
We will begin in chapter two of this book with one of the most controversial aspects of The Shack: the manifestation of God the Father as “Papa”, a large African-American woman, and of the Holy Spirit as an Asian woman named Sarayu. This portrayal has yielded some startling, even fantastic charges (including the frenzied charge that The Shack promotes goddess worship!). But even if those charges are overblown, one might still wonder whether the depiction is appropriate and what it implies about our knowledge of God. In this chapter we shall explore these questions by inquiring into the way that the infinite God accommodates himself to our limited human minds, so that we can know him.
Shift to another table in the coffee shop and one might hear an impassioned discussion on how the three persons constitute the one God. On this point some critics have argued that The Shack’s depiction of God is seriously flawed, for it fails to distinguish the three persons. We shall enter into the center of this debate in chapter three as we explore the intriguing way that the book wrestles with the unity and distinction of the Trinity, and ultimately how it distinguishes Sarayu and Jesus in accord with their particular missions as revealed in Scripture.
Turn to another conversation and one finds a heated debate in progress concerning questions of authority and submission. The question here concerns whether the Father is ultimately in charge of the Trinity so that the Son and Spirit eternally submit to him. Or could it be that the Father is as submitted to the Son and Spirit as they are to him? This is not a pointless question, for deciding whether there is authority and submission or mutual submission within God could have radical implications for how we organize our relationships here on earth. After all, don’t we want to be more like God? The view of The Shack is that all the divine persons are submitted to one another and to the creation, and so all human persons should also be so submitted. We shall wade into the midst of this debate in chapter four.
While the conversations thus far are important, it is those that we shall consider in the final three chapters which become for many people critical. In chapter five we will turn to ask how a God who is all-loving and all-powerful would allow the horrific murder of young Missy, a child of whom he says he is especially fond. The reason, it would seem, is that God allows Missy’s death so that he can achieve some kind of greater good out of it. But what kind of “greater goods” would justify the murder of a little girl? Could it be that God allows evil for the sake of free will? And could it be that he allows evil to draw us to him while developing our moral character? Even if these answers provide a plausible general response to evil, we will feel the painful tension when we apply them to the specific death of young Missy.
Turn to another table wrestling with the problem of evil, and the life and death of Jesus Christ moves to center stage. Ultimately there is evil because creation is fallen and we are sick with sin. And so as a response, God has sent his Son to bring healing to this fallen creation. In chapter six we will consider how The Shack explains the atoning work of Christ, noting both what it does and does not affirm about the atonement. In particular, we will note how the book ignores (or bypasses) the language of God’s wrath against sin. Indeed, in its place, it describes the Father as suffering with the Son. We will also consider the controversial question of how far Christ’s atoning work extends, and specifically whether it might save some who have never heard of Christ.
As we said, the world is sick with sin and in need of the Great Physician. However, with a view of salvation as God rescuing souls for heaven, many Christians have missed the fullness of God’s healing intent. And so in our final conversation we will consider the fullness of biblical salvation as extending to all creation. This vision is captured in the subtle way that the book depicts the renewal of the shack and the surrounding environs on Mack’s unforgettable weekend. Evidently it is not only Mack that is being made new, but the entire creation as well.
One final word before we begin. Most people who have read or heard about The Shack are aware of the controversies that swirl around the book. Although I appreciate the passion of the critics, I have been saddened by a frequent lack of charity that has been shown to the book’s author and its fans. And I have been especially disheartened by the advice of some influential Christian leaders not to read the book. It is true that The Shack asks some hard questions and occasionally takes positions with which we might well disagree. But surely the answer is not found in shielding people from the conversation, but rather in leading them through it.
After all, it is through wrestling with new ideas that one learns to deal with the nuance and complexity that characterizes an intellectually mature faith. The Shack will not answer all our questions, nor does it aspire to. But we can be thankful that it has started a great conversation.
1. The Trinity, trans. Joseph Donceel (Tunbridge Wells: Burns and Oates, 1970), 10-11.
2. For some examples of more practically oriented and accessible treatments see Millard Erickson, Making Sense of the Trinity: Three Crucial Questions (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2000); Robin Parry, Worshipping Trinity (Carlisle: Paternoster, 2005); Bruce A. Ware, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Relationships, Roles, & Relevance (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2005).
3. Cited in W.H.C. Frend, The Early Church (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1982), 174-5.
Monday, February 16, 2009
I spent the first I don't know how long of the movie trying to keep up with how all the characters were connected. They were a little 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon-ish.
What woman hasn't had one of those "he's not into you" moments? I know guys that do things that would make you think he was into you, but he's really not into you. It really drives me nuts. Should we say, "hey, you're being a real jerk because that could be considered flirting"? Sort of like Alex and Gigi before he finally figured out he did like her.
I really felt for the Gigi character. She just wanted a guy to pay her some attention and be interested in her. I've probably been as obsessed as her before, but just not as obvious to the general public. Did anyone else notice her purple obsession? I thought, "oh good grief, I hope I'm not that bad."
It was an absolute shame that the most attractive guy in the movie was such a... well, I don't even know what to call him other than the "hot jerk". You thought he was going to be a nice guy in the beginning, then boom! CHEATER! Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. And for him to tell his wife in middle of Home Depot.
Oh, his blond singer... why would a woman go after him after he says, "sorry, I'm married." Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.
By the way, speaking of wrong, I wish the hot jerk's wife had gone to get her eyebrows waxed. That drove me crazy. The funniest moment in the movie for me was when threw the mirror on the floor. Some guy in our theater yells, "that's seven years!" and everyone in the theater laughed at him.
Let me tell you what, in my opinion, was the biggest problem with the movie. There was not enough Ben Affleck. Love me some Ben, and there just wasn't enough of him.
So, Kristi... is that better? :)
And to Mimi and Christi who commented on the different look... is this better than the last one or do I need to just go back to the purple and brown?
Sunday, February 15, 2009
The question is: Are you celebrating President's Day?
Saturday, February 14, 2009
As we were waiting to get into the movie, on this stupid day of the year (one of my four least favorite days of the year) when everyone was at the movie on dates, four single women between the ages of 27-32 stand under the sign to the movie saying, "He's Not That Into You." One of our group (not sure which one) said, "the four of us standing under this sign says oh so much."
Yes, yes it did. What woman doesn't have a "he's not that into you" moment? The four of us certainly had an assortment of tales to tell.
Now, I'm not sitting her throwing a pity party, I'm just telling a funny story. I have to add that my grandmother made an unnecessary comment today. My mom and I were talking about someone or some situation, and Grandmother says, "see Audra, aren't you glad you're single?"
"Well, sometimes yes, and sometimes no."
The following is a public service announcement to all of the people who don't fall into the "never been married" category. Please, please, please, unless you want to be physically harmed, don't go and make comments like "with all the divorces in the world today, be glad you are single." Sometimes we are perfectly content with the way things are. Other times, not so much. Most of us would like to have someone in our lives. Just because things may have turned crappy for other people doesn't mean we wouldn't like to have a go at it ourselves.
Several years ago, Jenny and I were commenting to some of our single guy friends that we disliked Valentine's Day as single women. Our guy friends asked if it was really that important for us to get flowers on Valentine's Day. "YES!!!" we exclaimed. A few weeks later on Valentine's, Sammy cooked dinner for us and he and Jeremy had white roses for Jenny and I. Ladies, that right there is proof that you can get through to a guy every once in a while and train him right!
Now those guys, along with Adam who was at that dinner, are all married and Jenny and I are still single. Hmphf.
Here's another random reason why Valentine's is way over rated... I haven't eaten chocolate in 2 1/2 years. Without chocolate, what good is Valentine's Day?
Note to Ashley: Girl, you know I consider you one of my friends too, but the opening sounded funnier the way I wrote it. And, I promised you that I'd give you a shout out!
Friday, February 13, 2009
Life has been going on, and I didn't get back into town until around 8:00 last night from Arlington, Euless, Bedford or whatever mid-city that technically was. I know I went through Dallas going up and Arlington coming back. With my attitude greatly adjusted, I am now better prepared to blog non-sense.
I just didn't come straight home when I got into town last night (I'll get to that part in a minute), so I didn't turn on my computer to blog since I wanted to watch Grey's Anatomy, which by the way should have been renamed "Shepherd's Anatomy." ADD moment here. I read the Grey's message board on ABC.com, and everyone was complaining about "Addie's Anatomy," but I'm still going to put it off on Derek. I love McDreamy, but c'mon, I was looking forward to the engagement thing.
Alright, back to the real purpose of this story. As I have mentioned, my parents are packing up and in the process of moving for the first time in almost 32 years. A very highly-charged emotional, stressful time, as would be the case with any move, especially after such a long time in one place. That's not really the half of it right now though.
Well, my brother found someone to make a deal with. (He'd kick butt on the TV game show... he'd figure out a way to win what was behind all three doors, and get rid of the goats behind door #2 for more than a goat should ever be worth.) Their house was too small for the six of them, so he found someone desperate to move his family back out of his parents' house that wanted to buy his house. But, they had to be out of the house in 10 days.
He might have found a buyer, but I don't think this was one of Brian's finest deals. He really needed more time to get his stuff together and out of the house. And, well, I don't know... a place to live, maybe?!?!
Last night, Brian, Julie, Paige, Peyton, Madison and Layton moved in with my parents. Into the house with all the boxes that are being packed to be moved. Right now, it's 8 people in three bedrooms and two bathrooms (one of which is very small). Hopefully, in three weeks, they will all be able to pack up and move to my parents' new house where there will be four bedrooms and a bigger two bathrooms.
My mom told me to call her when I was leaving Bedford or Euless or wherever it was to let her know I was on my way home. That was about 6:30. Not even two hours into the estimated two month experience (the length of time to get the metal house built), Mom was thinking she may need an attitude adjustment.
Obviously, it was utter chaos last night as the crew moved in. Their living room looked like the three girls' closets spit up all over the place. (Much like Layton does anytime I hold him at church. That child has a talent. Peyton loves to remind me that he does that to me.) Of course, it's going to take some organization to get things in place.
Since I hadn't seen the girls in about two weeks, I had to stop by last night when I got into town to see them. I probably stirred up Peyton (and Madison too). She almost broke my neck holding on to me so hard.
"Audra, I've missed you soooo much. Don't leave the room, I want you."
"I've missed you too, but I can't breathe and my neck really, really hurts now."
I sent Julie a message via Facebook today to see when/if everyone finally got to sleep. "FINALLY! Brian slept on the couch, he said he didn't think he slept at all because he was thinking about everything he had to do today. Between some alarm that went off 3 different times during the night and Layton waking up 3 different times, I felt like I didn't get much sleep either! Your poor mom had to sleep in between Paige and your dad, so I know she couldn't have slept too good. Paige said her back hurt all night. Madison crashed pretty quick once they got laid down in the pink room, watching TV and I didn't think Peyton was ever going to go to sleep! It will get better, I HOPE!"
Dad tells me tonight, "I may need to borrow the mattress on your twin bed so Paige will have a place to sleep." The heck if I know where they are going to put the mattress, but...
A couple of nights ago, I was talking to my parents, and we were all saying how we were ready for a vacation. I tend to doubt that will happen this spring with everything going on, but they do have reservations for that one I'm not going on in July. I told them, "just think... you'll get to spend all this time together, and after living together, you all won't want to go vacation together in Branson." I just laughed.
I'm sitting here in my quiet house alone. I do have a stack of clothes that I need to hang up, but other than that my house is neat and straight. I have an all new appreciation for that tonight. However, I think my house is going to be everyone's getaway. The question is: who is going to get here first?
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
This is actually the first book that I requested after I set up my blog - the other FIRST tours I have posted are on books that I've been working on. I just started reading John's Quest, so I will post my review when I post the tour for Milk Money next month.
It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Barbour Publishing, Inc (2008)
Cecelia Dowdy is a world traveler who has been an avid reader for as long as she can remember. When she first read Christian fiction, she felt called to write for the genre.She loves to read, write, and bake desserts in her spare time. Currently she resides with her husband and young son in Maryland.
Don't miss the second book in the Maryland Wedding Series, Milk Money!
Visit the author's website and blog.
Mass Market Paperback: 170 pages
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc (2008)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
She ran to the door. Looking through the peephole, Monica saw her little sister Gina smiling at her.
Her heart pounded as she opened the door, gripping the knob. “What are you doing here?” Playing an internal game of tug-of-war, she wondered if she should hug her sister or slam the door in her face. Humid heat rushed into the air-conditioned living room. She stared at Gina, still awaiting her response.
“It’s nice to see you too, sister.” Gina pursed her full, red-painted lips and motioned at the child standing beside her. “Go on in, Scotty.”
Gina had brought her seven-year-old son with her. Dark shades hid his sightless eyes. “Aunt Monica!” he called.
Monica released a small cry as she dropped to her knees and embraced him. “I’m here, Scotty.” Tears slid down her cheeks as she hugged the child. Since Gina had cut herself off from immediate family for the last two years, Monica had wondered when she would see Scotty again. “You remember me?” Her heart continued to pound as she stared at her nephew. His light, coffee-colored skin glowed.
“Yeah, I remember you. When mom said I was going to live here, I wanted to come so we could go to the beach in Ocean City.”
Shocked, Monica stared at Gina who was rummaging through her purse. Gina pulled out a cigarette and lighter. Seconds later she was puffing away, gazing into the living room. “You got an ashtray?”
Monica silently prayed, hoping she wouldn’t lose her temper. “Gina, you know I don’t allow smoking in this house.”
Gina shrugged. After a bit of coaxing, she dropped the cigarette on the top step and ground it beneath the heel of her shoe. “I need to talk to you about something.”
Scotty entered the house and wandered through the room, ignoring the adults as he touched objects with his fingers. After Monica fed Scotty a snack and let him fall asleep in the guest bedroom, she confronted Gina.
“Where have you been for the last two years?”
Gina strutted around the living room in her tight jeans, her high heels making small imprints in the plush carpet. “I’ve been around. I was mad because Mom and Dad tried to get custody of Scotty, tried to take me to court and say I was an unfit mother.”
Groaning, Monica plopped onto the couch, holding her head in her hands. “That’s why you haven’t been speaking to me or Mom and Dad for two years?” When Gina sat beside her, Monica took her sister’s chin into her hand and looked into her eyes. “You know you were wrong. Mom and Dad tried to find you. They were worried about Scotty.”
Jerking away, Gina placed a few inches between herself and Monica. “They might have cared about Scotty, but they didn’t care about me.” Gina swore under her breath and rummaged in her purse. Removing a mint, she popped it into her mouth.
“They were worried about you and Scotty,” Monica explained. “You were living with that terrible man. He didn’t work, and he was high on drugs. We didn’t want anything to happen to the two of you.”
Gina’s lips curled into a bitter smirk. “Humph. Me and Scotty are just fine.” She glanced up the stairs. “You saw him. Does he look neglected to you?”
She continued to stare at Gina, still not believing she was here to visit in the middle of the night. “What do you want? What did Scotty mean when he said he was coming here to live?”
Gina frowned as she toyed with the strap of her purse. “I want you to keep Scotty for me. Will you?”
Monica jerked back. “What? Why can’t you take care of your own son? Did that crackhead you were living with finally go off the deep end?”
Gina shook her head. “No, we’re not even together anymore. It’s just that. . .” She paused, staring at the crystal vase of red roses adorning the coffee table. “I’m getting married.”
Monica’s heart skipped a beat. “Married?”
Gina nodded, her long minibraids moving with the motion of her head. “Yeah, his name is Randy, and he’s outside now, waiting for me in the car.”
Monica raised her eyebrows, suddenly suspicious. “Why didn’t you bring him inside? Are you ashamed of him?”
Gina shook her head. “No. But we’re in a hurry tonight, and I didn’t want to waste time with formalities.”
“You still haven’t told me why you can’t keep Scotty. Does your fiancé have a problem with having a blind child in his house?”
Gina scowled as she clutched her purse, her dark eyes darting around the room. “No, that’s not it at all.”
“Uh-huh, whatever you say.” She could always sense when Gina was lying. Her body language said it all.
“Really, it’s not Scotty’s blindness that bothers Randy. It’s just that—he’s a trapeze artist in the National African-American Circus and they’re traveling around constantly.” Her dark eyes lit up as she talked about her fiancé. “This year they’ll be going international. Can you imagine me traveling around the globe with Randy? We’ll be going to Paris, London, Rome—all those fancy European places!” She grabbed Monica’s arm. “We’d love to take Scotty, but we can’t afford to hire a tutor for him to travel with us.”
“You’re going to marry some man and travel with a circus?!” Monica shook her head, wondering when her sister would grow up. At twenty-seven, she acted as if she were still a teenager. Since Monica was ten years older, she’d always been the responsible sibling, making sure Gina behaved herself.
Gina grabbed Monica’s shoulder. “But I’m in love with him!” Her eyes slid over Monica as if assessing her. “You’ve never been in love? I think it’s odd that you’re thirty-seven and you never got married.”
Monica closed her eyes for a brief second as thoughts of her single life filled her mind. Since her breakup with her serious boyfriend two years ago, she’d accepted that God wanted her to remain single, and she spent her free time at church in various ministries. She filled her time praising God and serving Him, and she had no regrets for the life she led. But whenever one of the church sisters announced an engagement, she couldn’t stop the pang of envy that sliced through her.
Forcing the thoughts from her mind, she focused on Gina again. “This discussion is not about me. It’s about you. You can’t abandon Scotty. He loves you.”
Gina turned away, as if ashamed of her actions. “I know he does, and I love him, too. But I really want things to work out with Randy, and it won’t work with Scotty on the road with us. He needs special education since he’s blind.”
Her heart immediately went out to Scotty. She touched Gina’s shoulder. “Scotty knows you’re getting married?”
Gina nodded. “I didn’t tell him how long I would be gone, but I told him I’d call and visit. Please do this for me.” Her sister touched her arm, and her dark eyes pleaded with her. She opened her purse and gave Monica some papers. “I’ve already had the power of attorney papers signed and notarized so that you can take care of him.” She pressed the papers into Monica’s hand.
“How long will you be gone?” asked Monica.
“The power of attorney lasts for six months. Hopefully by then me and Randy will be more settled. I’m hoping after the world tour he’ll leave the circus and find a regular job.”
Monica frowned, still clutching the legal documents.
“Please do this for me, Monica,” she pleaded again.
She reluctantly nodded. If she didn’t take care of Scotty, she didn’t know who would.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Zondervan (January 1, 2009)
As the successor to John Stott, Dr. Chris Wright is the current international director of the Langham Partnership International. John Stott Ministries is the constituent member of LPI in the United States.
Dr. Wright, as the youngest of four children born to missionary parents, learned early that, “All our mission should be grounded in theological reflection, and all theology must result in missional outworking.” His words are a reflection of a lifetime of commitment to the strengthening of the church in the developing world through fostering leadership development, biblical preaching, literature, and doctoral scholarships.
With a degree in theology and a PhD in Old Testament ethics from Cambridge University, Dr. Wright felt a call to teach and followed that call in a high school in his birthplace, Belfast, Northern Ireland. His background includes pastoring a local parish church and teaching at a leading evangelical seminary in India—Union Biblical Seminary—and at All Nations Christian College, England, where he served as dean and president for more than thirteen years.
He and his wife, Liz, live in London and have four adult children and five grandchildren.
List Price: $19.99
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (January 1, 2009)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
It’s all very well to say, “Turn to the Bible”, but you can read the Bible from cover to cover, again and again, looking for a simple, clear answer to the question of the ultimate origin of evil, and you won’t find an answer. I am not talking here about the entry of evil into human life and experience in Genesis 3, which we will think about in a moment, but about how the evil force that tempted human beings into sin and rebellion came to be there in the first place. That ultimate origin is not explained.
This has not stopped many people from trying to come up with an answer for themselves and dragging in whatever bits of the Bible they think will support their theory. But it seems to me that when we read the Bible asking God, “Where did evil come from? How did it originally get started?” God seems to reply, “That is not something I intend to tell you.” In other words, the Bible compels us to accept the mystery of evil. Notice I did not say, “compels us to accept evil.” The Bible never does that or asks us to do so. We are emphatically told to reject and resist evil. Rather, I mean that the Bible leads us to accept that evil is a mystery (especially in terms of its origin), a mystery that we human beings cannot finally understand or explain. And we will see in a moment that there is a good reason why that is so.
However, in one sense, there is no mystery at all about the origin (in the sense of the actual effective cause) of a great deal of suffering and evil in our world. A vast quantity – and I believe we could say the vast majority – of suffering is the result of human sin and wickedness. There is a moral dimension to the problem. Human beings suffer in broad terms and circumstances because human beings are sinful.
It is helpful, I think, even if it is oversimplified, to make some distinction between what we might call “moral” evil and “natural” evil. This is not necessarily the best kind of language, and there are all kinds of overlaps and connections. But I think it does at least articulate a distinction that we recognize as a matter of common sense and observation.
By “moral” evil is meant the suffering and pain that we find in the world standing in some relation to the wickedness of human beings, directly or indirectly. This is evil that is seen in things that are said and done, things that are perpetrated, caused, or exploited, by human action (or inaction) in the realm of human life and history. To this we need to link spiritual evil and explore what the Bible has to say about ‘the evil one” – the reality of satanic, spiritual evil forces that invade, exploit, and amplify human wickedness
By “natural” evil is meant suffering that appears to be part of life on earth for all of nature, including animal suffering caused by predation and the suffering caused to human beings by events in the natural world that seem (in general anyway) to be unrelated to any human moral cause – things like earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, tornadoes and hurricanes, floods, etc., that is, so-called “natural disasters”.
In the case of moral evil, sometimes there is a direct link between sin and suffering. For example, some people directly cause other people to suffer through violence, abuse, cruelty, or just sheer callousness and neglect. Or sometimes people suffer directly the effects of their own wrong actions. Someone who drives too fast or drinks too much and ends up killing themselves in a road accident suffers the direct impact of their own sin or folly. Or we may suffer the punishment of the laws of our society for wrongdoing. Being put in prison is a form of suffering and in that respect it is an evil thing. And yet we recognize that some form of punishment for wrongdoing is a necessary evil. More than that, we have a strong instinct that when people are not punished when they are guilty of wrongdoing, that is another and even greater evil. Punishment, when deserved as a part of a consensual process of justice, is a good thing too.
But there is also a vast amount of suffering caused indirectly by human wickedness. The drunken driver may survive, but kill or injure other innocent people. Wars cause so-called “collateral damage”. Stray bullets from a gang fight or bank robbery kill innocent bystanders. A railway maintenance crew goes home early and fails to complete inspection of the track; a train is derailed and people are killed and injured. Whole populations suffer for generations after negligent industrial contamination. We can multiply examples from almost every news bulletin we see or hear. These are all forms of moral evil. They cause untold suffering, and they all go back in some form or another to culpable actions or failures of human beings.
Somehow, we manage to live with such facts, simply because they are so common and universal that we have “normalized” them, even if we regret or resent them and even if we grudgingly admit that humanity itself is largely to blame. But whenever something terrible on a huge scale happens, like the 2004 tsunami, or the cyclone in Myanmar in 2008, or the earthquakes in Pakistan, Peru, and China, the cry goes up, “How can God allow such a thing? How can God allow such suffering?” My own heart echoes that cry and I join in the protest at the gates of heaven. Such appalling suffering, on such a scale, in such a short time, inflicted on people without warning and for no reason, offends all our emotions and assumptions that God is supposed to care. We who believe in God, who know and love and trust God, find ourselves torn apart by the emotional and spiritual assault of such events.
“How can God allow such things?” we cry, with the built-in accusation that if he were any kind of good and loving God, he would not allow them. Our gut reaction is to accuse God of callousness or carelessness and to demand that he do something to stop such things.
But when I hear people voicing such accusations – especially those who don’t believe in God but like to accuse the God they don’t believe in of his failure to do things he ought to do if he did exist – then I think I hear a voice from heaven saying:
“Well, excuse me, but if we’re talking here about who allows what, let me point out that thousands of children are dying every minute in your world of preventable diseases that you have the means (but obviously not the will) to stop. How can you allow that?
“There are millions in your world who are slowly dying of starvation while some of you are killing yourselves with gluttony. How can you allow such suffering to go on?
“You seem comfortable enough knowing that millions of you have less per day to live on than others spend on a cup of coffee, while a few of you have more individual wealth than whole countries. How can you allow such obscene evil and call it an economic system?
“There are more people in slavery now than in the worst days of the pre-abolition slave trade. How can you allow that?
“There are millions upon millions of people living as refugees, on the knife-edge of human existence, because of interminable wars that you indulge in out of selfishness, greed, ambition, and lying hypocrisy. And you not only allow this, but collude in it, fuel it, and profit from it (including many of you who claim most loudly that you believe in me).
“Didn’t one of your own singers put it like this, ‘Before you accuse me, take a look at yourself.’ ”1
So it seems to me that there is no doubt at all, even if one could not put a percentage point on the matter, that the vast bulk of all the suffering and pain in our world is the result, direct or indirect, of human wickedness. Even where it is not caused directly by human sin, suffering can be greatly increased by it. What Hurricane Katrina did to New Orleans was bad enough, but how much additional suffering was caused by everything from looters to bureaucratic incompetence? HIV-AIDS is bad enough, but how many millions suffer preventable illness and premature death because corporate and political greed and callousness put medicines that are affordable and available in the West totally out of their reach? What the cyclone did to Myanmar was horrendous, but its effects were multiplied by the characteristically brutal refusal of the government to allow international aid organizations into the country until weeks later. Human callousness undoubtedly precipitated the death of thousands and prolonged the misery of the survivors.
The Bible’s Diagnosis
In a sense, then, there is no mystery. We suffer because we sin. This is not to say, I immediately hasten to add, that every person suffers directly or proportionately because of their own sin (the Bible denies that). It is simply to say that the suffering of the human race as a whole is to a large extent attributable to the sin of the human race as a whole.
The Bible makes this clear up front. Genesis 3 describes in a profoundly simple story the entry of sin into human life and experience. It came about because of our wilful rejection of God’s authority, distrust of God’s goodness, and disobedience of God’s commands. And the effect was brokenness in every relationship that God had created with such powerful goodness.
The world portrayed in Genesis 1 and 2 is like a huge triangle of God, the earth, and humanity.
HUMANITY THE EARTH
Every relationship portrayed was spoiled by the invasion of sin and evil: the relationship between us and God, the relationship between us and the earth, and the relationship between the earth and God.
Genesis 3 itself shows the escalation of sin. Even in this simple story, we can see sin moving from the heart (with its desire), to the head (with its rationalization), to the hand (with its forbidden action), to relationship (with the shared complicity of Adam and Eve). Then, from Genesis 4–11, the portrayal moves from the marriage relationship to envy and violence between brothers, to brutal vengeance within families, to corruption and violence in wider society and the permeation of the whole of human culture, infecting generation after generation with ever-increasing virulence.
The Bible’s diagnosis is radical and comprehensive.
• Sin has invaded every human person (everyone is a sinner).
• Sin distorts every dimension of the human personality (spiritual, physical, mental, emotional, social).
• Sin pervades the structures and conventions of human societies and cultures.
• Sin escalates from generation to generation within human history.
• Sin affects even creation itself.
We read a chapter like Job 24, and we know it speaks the truth about the appalling morass of human exploitation, poverty, oppression, brutality and cruelty. And, like Job, we wonder why God seems to do nothing, to hold nobody to account, and to bring nobody to instant justice.
“Why does the Almighty not set times for judgment?
Why must those who know him look in vain for such days?
There are those who move boundary stones;
they pasture flocks they have stolen.
They drive away the orphan’s donkey
and take the widow’s ox in pledge.
They thrust the needy from the path
and force all the poor of the land into hiding.
Like wild donkeys in the desert,
the poor go about their labor of foraging food;
the wasteland provides food for their children.
They gather fodder in the fields
and glean in the vineyards of the wicked.
Lacking clothes, they spend the night naked;
they have nothing to cover themselves in the cold.
They are drenched by mountain rains
and hug the rocks for lack of shelter.
The fatherless child is snatched from the breast;
the infant of the poor is seized for a debt.
Lacking clothes, they go about naked;
they carry the sheaves, but still go hungry.
They crush olives among the terraces;
they tread the winepresses, yet suffer thirst.
The groans of the dying rise from the city,
and the souls of the wounded cry out for help.
But God charges no one with wrongdoing
Job 24:1–12 (my italics)
And then we shudder because we know that if God were to do that right now and deal out instant justice, none of us would escape. For whatever grades and levels of evil there are among people in general, we know that it is something that lurks in our own heart. The evil we so much wish God would prevent or punish in others is right there inside ourselves. None of us needs to be scratched very deep to uncover the darker depths of our worst desires and the evil action any of us is capable of, if pushed. As we try to stand in judgment on God, we don’t really have a leg to stand on ourselves.
If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand?
Answer: Not a single solitary one of us.
And even apart from such latent or overt evil within ourselves, there is also the fact that it is practically impossible to live in this world without some complicity in its evil or some benefit from evils done elsewhere. We have to get on with living, and as we do so, our lives touch hundreds of other human lives – all over the planet – for good or ill. We are connected to the vast net of human experience worldwide. We may not be directly to blame for the sufferings of others, but we cannot ignore the connections.
The shirt on my back was made in an Asian country. I have no way of knowing if the hands that stitched it belong to a child who hardly ever sees the light of day, never has a square meal, or knows what it is to be loved and to play, and who may by now be deformed or even dead by such cruelty. But it is likely too that such wickedness is woven into the fabric of more than my shirt. In the week I write this, several major international companies in the UK are under investigation for profiting from virtual slave labour (a few pence an hour) in the majority world. Doubtless I have bought goods from some of them. Injustice and suffering plagues the global food industry, such that it is probable that some of what I eat or drink today is likely to have reached my table tinged with exploitation and oppression somewhere in the chain. The hands that have contributed to my daily bread undoubtedly include hands stained by the blood of cruelty, injustice, and oppression – whether inflicted or suffered.
Evil has its tentacles through multi-layered systems that are part of globalized reality. We can, of course, (and we should) take steps to live as ethically as possible, to buy fair-traded food and clothes, and to avoid companies and products with shameful records in this area. But I doubt if we can escape complicity in the webs of evil, oppression, and suffering in the world entirely. I say that not to turn all our enjoyment of life into guilty depression. Rather, as we enjoy the good gifts of God’s creation, we must at the same time accept the Bible’s diagnosis of how radical, pervasive, and deeply ingrained sin has become in all human life and relationships.
Only God in his omniscience can unravel such inter-weavings of evil, but the point the Bible makes is that it puts the blame for suffering and evil where most of it primarily belongs, namely on ourselves, the human race. The Bible makes it equally clear that we cannot just draw simple equations between what one person suffers and their own personal sinfulness. Often it is terribly wrong to do so (and makes the suffering even worse, as Job discovered). But in overall, collective human reality, the vast bulk of human suffering is the result of the overwhelming quantity and complexity of human sinning. There is no mystery, it seems to me, in this biblical diagnosis, which is so empirically verified in our own experience and observation.
Where Did Evil Come From?
It is when we ask this question that our problems begin.
It is important to see that Genesis 3 does not tell us about the origin of evil as such. Rather, it describes the entry of evil into human life and experience. Evil seems to explode into the Bible narrative, unannounced, already formed, without explanation or rationale. We are never told, for example, how or why “the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made” (Gen. 3:1). We are not told why it spoke as it did, though the very fact that it did should raise our suspicion that something is not right in God’s good creation. But why such “not-right-ness” was there, or where it had come from – these questions are not answered in the text.
What then can we say about this mysterious source of temptation that led Eve and Adam to choose to disobey? It was not God – evil is not part of the being of God. It was not another human being – evil is not an intrinsic part of what it means to be human either. We were human once without sin, so we can be so again. It was something from within creation – and yet it was not a “regular” animal, since it “talked”. And how could such evil thoughts and words come from within a creation that has seven times been declared “good” in chapters 1–2? Whatever the serpent in the narrative is, then, or whatever it represents, it is out of place, an intruder, unwelcome, incoherent, contrary to the story so far.
If evil, then, comes from within creation in some sense (according to the symbolism of the story in Genesis 3), but not from the human creation, the only other created beings capable of such thought and speech are angels.2 So, although the connection is not made in Genesis 3 itself, the serpent is elsewhere in the Bible symbolically linked to the evil one, the devil (e.g., Rev. 12:9; 20:2). And the devil is portrayed elsewhere as an angel, along with other hosts of angels who rebelled against God along with him (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6; Rev. 12:7–9).
What, then, is the devil or Satan?
First of all, he (or it) is not God. Nor even just some other god. The Bible makes it very clear that we are not to fall into any kind of dualism – a good god (who made the world all nice and friendly), and an evil god (who messed it all up). Some kinds of popular folk Christianity do slide in that direction and give to Satan far more assumed power and far more obsessive attention than is warranted by the Bible. And such dualism is the meat and drink of a large amount of quasi-religious fiction, which sadly many Christians read with more frequency and more faith than their Bibles.
But Satan is not God, never has been and never will be. That means that, although the Bible clearly portrays Satan as powerful indeed, he is not omnipotent. Likewise, although Satan is said in the Bible to command hosts of other fallen angels (demons) who do his dirty work, he is not omnipresent. Satan cannot be everywhere at once (as only God can be and is). And although the Bible shows Satan to be very clever, subtle, and deceitful, he is not omniscient. He does not know everything and does not have sovereign knowledge of the future in the way God has in carrying forward his plans for creation and history.
As an angel among other fallen angels, even as their prince, the devil is a created being. That means that he is subject to God’s authority and ultimate control. Like everything else in creation, Satan is limited, dependent, contingent – and ultimately destructible. We should take Satan seriously, but we should not dignify him with greater reality and power than is proper for a creature.
But is the devil personal? Is Satan a person like us? Is he a person like God?
We must be careful in answering this question. It seems to me that there are dangers in either a simple yes or no. On the one hand, the Bible clearly speaks about the devil in many ways that we normally associate with persons. He is an active agent, with powers of intelligence, intentionality, and communication. That is, the Bible portrays the devil as acting, thinking, and speaking in ways that are just like the way we do such things and are certainly greater than any ordinary animal does. When the devil is around in the Bible, it is clear that the Bible is talking about more than just some abstract evil atmosphere or tendency or a merely metaphorical personification of evil desires within ourselves – individually or collectively. The Bible warns us that, in the devil, we confront an objective intelligent reality with relentless evil intent. And the Gospels reinforce this assessment in their description of the battle Jesus had with the devil throughout his ministry. The devil, says the Bible, is very real, very powerful, and acts in many ways just like the persons we know ourselves to be.
But on the other hand, there is one thing that the Bible says about us as human persons that it never says about the devil, or about angels in general, at all. God made us human beings in God’s own image. Indeed, this is what constitutes our personhood. What makes human beings uniquely to be persons, in distinction from the rest of the nonhuman animal world, is not the possession of a soul,3 but that human beings are created in the image of God. The human species is the only species of which this is true. We were created to be like God, to reflect God and his character, and to exercise God’s authority within creation.
Even as sinners, human beings are still created in God’s image. Though it is spoiled and defaced, it cannot be eradicated altogether, for to be human is to be the image of God. So even among unregenerate sinners there are God-like qualities, such as loving relationships, appreciation of goodness and beauty, fundamental awareness of justice, respect for life, and feelings of compassion and gentleness. All these are dimensions of human personhood, for all of them reflect the transcendent person of God.
Now we are not told in the Bible that God created angels in his own image. Angels are created spirits. They are described as servants of God who simply do his bidding. They worship God and carry out God’s errands. The common word for them in the Old Testament simply means “messengers”.[AQ2] Don’t misunderstand: this is not meant in anyway to diminish the exalted status and function that angels have in the Bible. It is simply to note that they are distinguished from human persons. And ultimately it is the human, in and through the man Christ Jesus, who will take the supreme place in the redeemed created order (Heb. 2). Personal qualities are the unique possession of human beings because, as God’s image, we are the only beings in creation who were uniquely created to reflect God’s own divine personhood.
So, among the fallen angels, especially the devil himself, there is no trace of that image of God which is still evident even in sinful human beings. And this is most easily explained if we assume it was never there in the first place. In Satan there is no residual loving relationship, no appreciation of goodness or beauty, no mercy, no honour, no “better side”, no “redeeming features”. And most of all, whereas no human person, however evil and degraded, is ever in this life beyond our loving compassion and our prayers that they might repent and be saved, there is no hint whatsoever in the Bible that Satan is a person to be loved, pitied, prayed for, or redeemed. On the contrary, Satan is portrayed as totally malevolent, relentlessly hostile to all that God is and does, a liar and a murderer through and through, implacably violent, mercilessly cruel, perpetually deceptive, distorting, destructive, deadly – and doomed.
“So, Do You Believe in the Devil?”
Faced with this question I feel the need to make a qualified “yes and no” answer. Yes, I believe in the existence of the devil as an objective, intelligent and “quasi-personal” power, utterly opposed to God, creation, ourselves, and life itself. But no, I do not “believe in the devil”, in any way that would concede to him power and authority beyond the limits God has set. The Bible calls us not so much to believe in the devil as to believe against the devil. We are to put all our faith in God through Christ and to exercise that faith against all that the devil is and does – whatever he may be. Nigel Wright makes this point very well:
To believe in somebody or something implies that we believe in their existence. But it also carries overtones of an investment of faith or trust.… To believe in Jesus means, or should mean, more than believing in his existence. It involves personal trust and faith by virtue of which the power of Christ is magnified in the life of the believer. The access of Christ to an individual’s life, his power or influence within them, is in proportion to their faith. The same use of language applies in the wider world. To believe in a political leader implies more than believing in their existence; it implies faith in the system of values for which they stand and confidence in their ability to carry it through.
The reply to the question should Christians believe in the devil must therefore be a resounding ‘No!’ When we believe in something we have a positive relationship to that in which we believe but for the Christian a positive relationship to the devil and demons is not possible. We believe in God and on the basis of this faith we disbelieve in the devil … Satan is not the object of Christian belief but of Christian disbelief. We believe against the devil. We resolutely refuse the devil place.
… The power of darkness against which we believe has its own reality. Even though it has a reality it lacks a validity – it ought not to exist because it is the contradiction of all existence. Its existence is unthinkable even as it is undeniable. It exists, but for the Christian it exists as something to be rejected and denied.4
That is why Paul urges us to “put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Eph. 6:11 my italics). That is why Peter, as soon as he has warned his readers about the devil’s predatory prowling, urges them to resist him – not pay him the compliment of any form of “believing”: “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith” (1 Peter 5:8–9).
That is why one of the most ancient formulas of the church, in the baptism liturgy, calls upon Christians undergoing baptism to “renounce the devil and all his works”. That is probably also why, when a popular series of books on Christian doctrines, the “I Believe” series of Hodder and Stoughton, came to the doctrine of Satan, it did not follow the simple formula of other volumes (e.g. I Believe in the Historical Jesus; I Believe in the Resurrection). There is no book in the series with the title, I Believe in Satan, but rather and quite rightly, I Believe in Satan’s Downfall.
The Fall of Angels?
So the Bible tells us that the devil and his hosts are rebel angels. But what does the Bible teach us about this so-called fall of the angels? Well, actually, it doesn’t really “teach” anything clearly or systematically, though we do get a number of hints that point in that direction.
Isaiah 14:4–21 and Ezekiel 28:1–17 are poems that “celebrate” the fall of the kings of Babylon and Tyre respectively. They are typical of the taunting songs of lament that were used when great imperial tyrants were brought low and the world breathed a sigh of relief. Some Christians see in these two songs a kind of symbolic portrayal of the fall of Satan. However, we do need to remind ourselves that they were written originally to describe the defeat and death of historical human kings, and so it is a dubious exercise to try to build detailed doctrinal statements about the devil or the “underworld” upon them. Nevertheless, we may discern the fingerprints of Satan in what is described in these poems, since it is clear that these arrogant human beings were brought low because of their blasphemous pride and boasting against God. Indeed, they are portrayed as wanting to usurp God’s throne. In the poem, such claims are probably metaphorical for the human kings’ hybris, but they have a spiritual counterpart that is recognizably satanic.
Jude, 2 Peter, and Revelation give us some clearer affirmations of the fall of Satan and his rebel angels:
And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling – these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.
God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into chains of darkness to be held for judgment.
2 Peter 2:4
And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down – that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
That seems to be it, as far as direct Bible references to this matter are concerned. In our curiosity, we ask for more information, such as:
• When did this happen?
• Why did created angels turn to become rebellious?
• Were the angels themselves tempted by something evil, as the serpent tempted Eve?
• If so, how did such evil come into existence?
• Where did the evil come from that led created angels to fall, who then led humans to fall?
But for such questions, we get no answer from the Bible. We are simply never told. Silence confronts all our questions. The mystery remains unrevealed.
Now God has revealed to us vast amounts of truth in the Bible – about God himself, about creation, about ourselves, our sin, God’s plan of salvation, the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, the future destiny of the world, and so on. Thus, in light of all this abundant revelation, the Bible’s silence at this point on the ultimate origin of evil seems all the more significant, and not merely accidental. It’s not as if God were now saying, “Oops, I forgot to mention that point, but never mind, they can figure it out for themselves.” No, the truth is that God has chosen in his wisdom not to give us an answer to our questions about the ultimate origin of evil within creation. It is simply not for us to know – and that is God’s sovereign decision, the prerogative of the one who is the source of all truth and revelation in the universe.
Now I think there is a good reason for this, but before we turn to that, let us briefly summarize what we’ve seen so far, so that we can keep track of our reflection.
We have argued that a vast amount of the suffering and evil in the world can be explained in relation to human wickedness, directly or indirectly. Evil has a fundamentally moral core, related to our moral rebellion against God.
But we also know from the Bible that at the point where this entered into human experience and history (the fall as portrayed in Genesis 3), it involved our human collusion with some preexisting reality of evil, a sinister presence that injected itself into human consciousness, invited us to stand over against God in distrust and disobedience, and then invaded every aspect of human personhood – spiritual, mental, physical and relational – and every aspect of human life on earth – social, cultural and historical.
But if we ask, “Where did that preexisting evil presence come from?” – we are simply not told. God has given us the Bible, but the Bible doesn’t tell us.
So then, to return to the title of this chapter, the Bible compels us to accept the mystery of evil. But here’s the key point: we can recognize this negative fact. We know what we don’t know. We do understand that we cannot understand. And that in itself is a positive thing.
Why is that?
Evil Makes “No Sense”
It is a fundamental human drive to understand things. The creation narrative shows that we have been put into our created environment to master and subdue it, which implies gaining understanding of it. To be human is to be charged with ruling creation, and that demands ever-growing breadth and depth of understanding the created reality that surrounds us. The simple picture in Genesis 2 of the primal human naming the rest of the animals is an indication of this exercise of rational recognition and classification. Our rationality is in itself a dimension of being made in the image of God. We were created to think! We just have to investigate, understand, explain; it is a quintessentially human trait that manifests itself from our earliest months of life.
So then, to understand things means to integrate them into their proper place in the universe, to provide a justified, legitimate, and truthful place within creation for everything we encounter. We instinctively seek to establish order, to make sense, to find reasons and purposes, to validate things and thus explain them. As human beings made in God’s image for this very purpose, we have an innate drive, an insatiable desire, and an almost infinite ability to organize and order the world in the process of understanding it.
Thus, true to form, when we encounter this phenomenon of evil, we struggle to apply to it all the rational skill – philosophical, practical, and problem-solving – that we so profusely and successfully deploy on everything else. We are driven to try to understand and explain evil. But it doesn’t work. Why not?
God with his infinite perspective, and for reasons known only to himself, knows that we finite human beings cannot, indeed must not, “make sense” of evil. For the final truth is that evil does not make sense. “Sense” is part of our rationality that in itself is part of God’s good creation and God’s image in us. So evil can have no sense, since sense itself is a good thing.
Evil has no proper place within creation. It has no validity, no truth, no integrity. It does not intrinsically belong to the creation as God originally made it nor will it belong to creation as God will ultimately redeem it. It cannot and must not be integrated into the universe as a rational, legitimated, justified part of reality. Evil is not there to be understood, but to be resisted and ultimately expelled. Evil was and remains an intruder, an alien presence that has made itself almost (but not finally) inextricably “at home”. Evil is beyond our understanding because it is not part of the ultimate reality that God in his perfect wisdom and utter truthfulness intends us to understand. So God has withheld its secrets from his own revelation and our research.
Personally, I have come to accept this as a providentially a good thing. Indeed, as I have wrestled with this thought about evil, it brings a certain degree of relief. And I think it carries the implication that whenever we are confronted with something utterly and dreadfully evil, appallingly wicked, or just plain tragic, we should resist the temptation that is wrapped up in the cry, “Where’s the sense in that?” It’s not that we get no answer. We get silence. And that silence is the answer to our question. There is no sense. And that is a good thing too.
Can I understand that?
Do I want to understand that?
Probably not, if God has decided it is better that I don’t.
So I am willing to live with the understanding that the God I don’t understand has chosen not to explain the origin of evil, but rather wants to concentrate my attention on what he has done to defeat and destroy it.
Now this may seem a lame response to evil. Are we merely to gag our desperate questions, accept that it’s a mystery, and shut up? Surely we do far more than that? Yes indeed.
We scream in pain and anger.
We cry out, “How long must this kind of thing go on?”
And that brings us to our second major biblical response. For when we do such things, the Bible says to us, “That’s OK. Go right ahead. And here are some words that you may like to use when you feel that way.” But for that, we must turn to our next chapter.
Eric Clapton, “Before You Accuse Me”, from the album Eric Clapton Unplugged.
2 It is interesting that the only other time an animal is said to speak in biblical narrative is Balaam’s donkey, and on that occasion an angel is also involved. See Numbers 22.
3 Genesis 2:7 is sometimes said to be the moment when God breathed a soul into Adam. But this is exegetically impossible. The ”breath of life’” means the breath shared by all animals that live by breathing (as in Gen. 1:30 and 6:17), and “living being” is the same term used for all “living creatures” (e.g., in Gen. 1:24, 28). The verse speaks of special intimacy in the relationship between God and his human creation, but not of a “soul” as distinct from animals. The distinguishing mark of the human is being made in the image of God.
4 Nigel G. Wright, A Theology of the Dark Side: Putting the Power of Evil in Its Place (Carlisle: Paternoster; 2003), 24–25 (my italics).